Thursday, October 30, 2014

Denali - via Fairbanks

Delta Junction is halfway between Tok and Fairbanks and is also known as "Moose Alley."  Near Dot Lake, we saw a hunter with his family, sighting in a moose from the side of the road.  Two kids in the back seat of his beat up car and a dog were waiting.  We drove by hoping kind of hoping they'd miss but realizing they were hunting for food and not just for a trophy.  Ironically, we stopped at our favorite meat market in Delta Junction and once again filled the freezer with reindeer, elk, beef and pork.

Since it was Wednesday, the Highway's End farmers market was open.  Patty, a fellow Tetlin volunteer, loved the market and had traveled to it several times on her days off.  We looked forward to fresh crisp greens and other locally grown veggies. We bought fresh greens from the woman who brought offerings from her own garden and made small talk with all the vendors as we shopped.  We scored some awesome raspberry vinaigrette to give to Ruth and Jim upon our arrival to their home in Washington. Although it was late in the day and the market was small, we were able to find a few other things.

Joy had wanted to the visit the Sullivan Roadhouse across the parking lot last time we stopped but it had been closed.  This time, the door was open and we wandered in.  After a few minutes, Bruce, the docent, appeared and began giving us a tour.  It was fascinating learning about the history of the building and how it had traveled to its current location.
It had moved three times in order to be saved as a historic sight.  

Bruce was impressed with how much we knew about the area and the importance of roadhouses during the Alaskan expansion.  Joy spotted an old pump organ and asked if she could play it.  Bruce didn't even know if it worked.  Joy already had her shoes off and was pumping away, playing a beautiful tune she created on the spot. She had played a similar organ in a neighbor's basement going up in Minnesota.  Music was an important way for immigrants to entertain themselves as well as to bring their culture and religion to the natives.

By the time we were ready to leave, Bruce invited us to raid the beautiful historic garden in front of the roadhouse.  This garden would have provided meals not only for the residents but all the travelers who stopped at the roadhouse.  We pilfered two onions, parsley, and a small rutabaga and delighted in the wonderful opportunity to be right where we were.

Fairbanks awaited as the day was getting away from us so we got back on the road.  After a few more miles, we saw a cow and two moose calves along the road. Mama moose did a great of herding her two young ones away from us and the road and back into the woods.

Hunger hit so we parked in a roadside pull off to eat lunch.  Kathy took the dogs for a walk and came back yelling that she'd found a dead moose.  Joy, with camera, ran out to see the remains.  It looked like a cow, since it had no antlers, but we both knew they could have been removed. No smell but lots of decay indicated it may have been killed a week or so earlier, probably hit by a car.  We looked around carefully for  bear as we no longer had bear spray and returned to the RV.  

After a lunch of recently purchased caribou sausage nibs and Pilot Bread, we drove straight to the campground in Fairbanks that we had stayed at earlier in the summer, which provided clean showers, no mosquitoes and a nice place to walk the dogs.  We were even treated to a parade of vintage cars as the local car club wove its way through the park, showing off their wheels.

Besides the cable TV, we also celebrated the Alaskan interior, which we explored like any traveler may have done the past 75 years - following the Tanana River and stopping to share with people along the way.  This time around we were able to explore the University of Alaska museum which is on the beautiful UA campus overlooking Fairbanks. We seemed to enjoy this visit to Fairbanks more than the last time and we surmised it was because we were returning to a familiar place which still held so much to explore.

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